Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The feminists mistook?*

The SHAMblog faithful will know that the crippling problem with the kind of "self-help" book I sometimes advocate (and think could actually be useful) is that it's not publishable. More precisely, such a book--which would tread some sane middle ground between "you can do anything you want!" and "life is rigged against you!"--isn't marketable. Even more precisely, it can't be "positioned" in the marketplace. Which is to say, if it's not strictly Empowerment, and it's not strictly Victimization, publishers don't know how to promote it. And, frankly, readers usually don't want to read it.

There is, however, one way to get such a book into print: subterfuge. Give the book a title that's catchy enough in its own right (i.e. one that leans more to one side or the other than does the actual text) for readers to THINK the book is more cliched than it really is.**

Such a book is
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex and Feminism by Carrie L. Lukas. Based on its title alone, one would probably think (a) it's not a self-help book at all, and (b) it's a rightwing-ish rant, along the lines of Myrna Blyth's Spin Sisters, from which I quote heavily in SHAM. But really, Lukas' book is what one might call a well-tempered look at the ups and downs of postmodern feminism, as well as something of a user's guide for same. Though it pulls no punches when it comes to excoriating feminism for its excesses--in particular, for making women feel bad about domesticity and for blaming all of women's problems on men--it also points up areas in which feminists were indeed the squeaky wheels, facilitating the many important strides that women have made over the past half-century. To my read (again, recognizing that I suffer from the fatal handicap of being male), Lukas provides a good lens through which to interpret feminism and assess its practical relevance to everyday life--in a sensible, non-radical-fringe way.

I recommend it to women and men alike. If you take me up on this, by all means let me know what you think.

* This, by the way, was the title I would've used for the review I always wanted to write of the late Betty Friedan's work. Friedan's landmark book, of course, was The Feminine Mystique. She later repudiated, or at least softened, many of its key positions.
**
It's truly sad that books almost have to be cliched--stereotypical--in order to find an audience. As a culture, we've completely lost our appreciation of nuance. And nothing demonstrates this better (or worse) than the "you're either on my team or you're my enemy" political climate.

2 comments:

leanne said...

i bought this book and generally liked it a lot though i do agree with some reviewers that at times its a little bit "much" in its outmoded attitudes toward women.

Anonymous said...

To your footnote ("It's truly sad..."), I think George Bush and his political machine, with its dirty tactics, immoral conduct, and bald-faced lies, is responsible for creating this polarized atmosphere. But that said, I'm appalled when Bush says something praiseworthy, such as that we need to find alternative fuels and reduce our "oil addiction," and rather than being commended by liberals and environmentalists for at last taking a responsible step, he's ridiculed all the more. To say the least, that sort of behavior is childish and unhelpful. If this country is not to descend into impotent squabbling, or, God forfend, become a dictatorship, we need to rediscover our common values, seek common ground, and face our common future. And make more than a token effort to live by the Golden Rule!